كَمْ مِنْ صَائِمٍ لَيْسَ لَهُ مِنْ صِيَامِهِ إِلاَّ الظَّمَأُ، وَكَمْ مِنْ قَائِمٍ لَيْسَ لَهُ مِنْ قِيَامِهِ إِلاَّ الْعَنَاءُ، حَبَّذَا نَوْمُ الاْكْيَاسِ وَ إِفْطَارُهُمْ۔
There is many a person who fasts whose fast is nothing but just hunger and thirst, and many an offerer of prayers whose prayer is no better than wakefulness and hardship. The sleep as well as the eating and drinking of the intelligent (God-knowing) person is far better.
— Imam Ali a.s.
(Nahj al-Balagha — Peak of Eloquence: Hadith #145)
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Praise be to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds. May peace and blessings be upon our beloved Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), his pure progeny, and his noble companions.
In this profound Hadith, Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) draws our attention to the true essence and purpose of fasting and prayer. He highlights the fact that mere physical acts of worship, such as fasting and praying, are not sufficient on their own. Rather, the true value and reward of these acts lie in the sincerity and devotion with which they are performed.
The Imam (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) begins by stating,
There is many a person who fasts whose fast is nothing but just hunger and thirst.
Here, the word (sa'im) "صَائِمٍ" refers to someone who observes the fast. The Imam (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) is emphasizing that there are individuals who engage in the physical act of fasting, abstaining from food and drink, but fail to attain the spiritual benefits that fasting is meant to bring. Their fast becomes nothing more than a physical exercise, devoid of the true essence of self-discipline, self-control, and spiritual purification.
To support this, we can turn to the Quran, where Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ) says in Surah Al-Baqarah (2:183),
O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you, that you may become righteous.
This verse clearly indicates that the purpose of fasting is to attain righteousness, piety, and God-consciousness. It is not merely about abstaining from food and drink, but rather about transforming our hearts and souls.
Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) further states,
And many an offerer of prayers whose prayer is no better than wakefulness and hardship.
Here, the word (qa'im) "قَائِمٍ" refers to someone who stands in prayer. The Imam (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) highlights that there are individuals who perform their prayers mechanically, without true presence of heart and mind. Their prayers become nothing more than a physical exercise, lacking the spiritual connection and devotion that prayer is meant to cultivate.
In the Quran, Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ) says in Surah Al-Mu'minun (23:1-2),
Certainly will the believers have succeeded: They who are during their prayer humbly submissive.
These verses emphasize the importance of humility and submission in prayer. It is not merely about going through the motions, but rather about surrendering ourselves completely to Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ) and seeking His pleasure.
Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) then provides a contrast by stating,
The sleep as well as the eating and drinking of the intelligent (God-knowing) person is far better.
Here, the word (akyaas) "اْكْيَاسِ" refers to those who possess intelligence and knowledge of Allah. The Imam (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) is highlighting that the actions of a person who possesses true knowledge and understanding of Allah are far superior to those who merely engage in physical acts of worship.
This is in line with the Quranic teachings, where Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ) says in Surah Al-Anfal (8:29),
O you who have believed, if you fear Allah, He will grant you a criterion and will remove from you your misdeeds and forgive you. And Allah is the possessor of great bounty.
True knowledge and understanding of Allah lead to a deep reverence and fear of Him, which in turn guides our actions and purifies our intentions.
In conclusion, Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) reminds us that the true essence of fasting and prayer lies in the sincerity, devotion, and knowledge of Allah that we bring to these acts of worship. Mere physical actions without spiritual understanding and connection are of little value. We must strive to cultivate a deep awareness of Allah's presence, seek His pleasure, and transform our hearts and souls through our worship. May Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ) grant us the ability to worship Him with true sincerity and devotion.
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